Helmsley's pretty town centre in North Yorkshire is well known to walkers, motorcyclists and those within the hunting scene..... But thanks to their new free motorhoming aire, it's far more than just an ideal lunch stop or passing through place enroute to the North York Moors... The town's picturesque location, on the River Rye, is surrounded by beautiful countryside and moorland beyond..... Making it the perfect place to explore and discover on a crisp winter's day in November (as much as a sunny July weekend)
England's largest county (Yorkshire) certainly boasts a diverse landscape which few areas of Britain can match. From historic cities like York to the rural charms of the Moors or Dales and the stunning coastline on the North Sea. Each offers memorable images, scenic views and walks. But few areas can better Helmsley's easy access and beautiful scenery which makes it a magnet for those crossing across North Yorkshire's 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' in the Howardian Hills.
Yet clearly beautiful, sometimes the sheer scale of the openness of the North Yorkshire Moors can take your breath away too, and you don't have to be a professional birdspotter to be impressed by the wonderful variety of local birds (from barn owls to merlins). However, it's often a misunderstood place in winter. Although it can be harsh in exposed areas, there's still much to enjoy out of peak seasons.... Dotted throughout the North York Moors are bustling market towns and picturesque villages with warm welcomes and intriguing local tales from smugglers but we've opted to park up our motorhome and discover just 'How to spend 24hrs visiting Helmsley in Winter'.
Rather than being tempted into one of the award winning (and scrumptious) Ryeburn ice creams... Best enjoyed by sitting on the pretty stream that runs beside Helmsley's quaint market square.... we decided to head indoors and a chance to test out one of Helmsley's best coffee shops (Porters of Helmsley)
If you're like us and like to get your bearings before exploring a new place. Then you'll love Porters! It's the type of place that offers caffeine fix but without the 'coffeee chain' approach? From intense espresso and powerful americanos to ice cold lattes and steaming hot chcolates, it's also full of home baked goodies that are just too good to miss out on! So suitably fed and warmed up... where better to start exploring Helmsley than by strolling through Duncombe Park to the 'National Birds of Prey Centre'
The National Centre for Birds of Prey is an impressive family visitor attraction situated just a short 10mins walk from the town centre (click here for a map of the parkland walks) in Helmsley. Open pretty much the entire year (7 days a week).... it's the perfect place to discover more about birds ranging from sea eagles to harris hawks.
It's hard to single out just one aspect of the visit that really impressed us.... Perhaps it was the clever stamping book that gave the girls a quick guided tour of the birds. Or maybe it was seeing the experienced bird handlers being attacked by the petulant sea eagle.... or maybe it was the innovative signage and clever use of 'child friendly' exhibits like testing the weight and wingspans of each individual bird......
Either way it was great value for money (yet again being included in the York Pass) and at less than £30 for a family of 4.... you could easily spend a good half a day here..... Just don't miss the morning or afternoon shows which are truly brilliant learning experiences and made even better by the engaging and friendly staff!
Helmsley is packed full of history, character and stunning architecture. The town's rich history dates back to 3,000 BC. There's Norman castle ruins and ancient oak trees to see or the chance to unlock nine hundred years of life at the stunning Helmsley Castle. Or if you'd like to cast your search a little further, then head up Bilsdale (our favourite valley alongside Rosedale & Fryupdale) and you'll find the ruined abbey at Rievalux.
But if you're in a motorhome like us, then head a little further still and you'll chance upon Nunnington House, Castle Howard or seaside delights like Whitby....
Whilst others might be able to pack all of this into a day and still have time for lunch... we slightly overcooked our timings and missed lunch... but thankfully you can find easy places to refuel like the appealing yet quirky 'Scotts Fish & Chip Cafe' (just a stones throw from the motorhome aire)
If you've seen our Lincoln article, you'll know we can't resist a chance to sample seafood.... so whether it's Seafood Paella in Valencia or line caught fish from nearby Whitby.... our girls love tucking into calamari or good old fashioned 'fish'n'chips'... not to mention washing this down with a local brew for the adults (Black Sheep Brewery tours are also available nearby too)!
So with rumbling tummies resolved and both girls chattering away about a great day inn Helmsley. It's time to head back to our motorhome aire (6 spaces are available), and a chance to get some sleep before we head to nearby Dalby Forest and a chance to enjoy another Go Ape Adventure.
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